Before flying off to Utah, I hit the Barnes & Noble to pick up a new book for my trip, and I bought Sacred Games, a sprawling novel about Bombay that had just hit trade paperback. I had read terrific things about the book, plus I love novels that allow me to enter new worlds that don’t have hippogryphs and shit; author Vikram Chandra paints a loving yet no-holds barred portrait of modern India, and his use of language is deft and lovely. At least it is so far – at almost 1000 pages most of the book still lays before me.
That’s where my shame comes in. I didn’t have as much time to read in Park City as I thought I might, so Sacred Games remains unfinished in my backpack… and I know that it’s going to stay unfinished for a while. You see, tomorrow I will officially abandon the book and begin reading V: The Second Generation.
This is so humiliating. I will be leaving behind a work of modern literature for what will likely be absolute crap, even if it’s crap I’m sure I’ll love. I’m more than a little bit of a book snob and I make no apologies for this – unlike TV shows or movies, books require real work, and I don’t understand why anyone would spend hours of their life reading poor prose about yet another sword wielding hero or schlocky private eye. It’s not that I have something against specific genres – crime fiction has actually seen a renaissance in the last decade or so – but rather the way that mass market paperbacks stick to the conventions of these genres with numbing regularity, and the way that most of the authors in these genres can’t be bothered to write a decent sentence. There’s something to be said about plain, unadorned storytelling… when you’re seven. As a grown up reader you should be searching for the synthesis between prose, story and theme. Vikram Chandra has that. But Kenneth Johnson, the author of V: The Second Generation?
Johnson is the guy who created V in the first place, and this novel is a sequel to the original mini-series, ignoring V: The Final Battle and V: The Series. It’s set twenty years after the initial invasion by the Visitors, aka the most deliciously heavy handed metaphorical aliens in the history of science fiction, and it also apparently involves the opposing alien force who was contacted at the end of the original mini and forgotten about henceforth. As a huge fan of V, I find this all irresistible. I can’t even imagine a situation where V: The Second Generation has a reading level higher than fifth grade, and I am sure I will blow through the book in two evenings and be left vaguely disappointed by the bad writing and overwrought, implausible situations… but I am also sure I’ll love the hell out of it.
There are people out there getting up in arms about this Advocate already. They’ll be using the old ‘I like to eat a good steak but sometimes I just want junk food’ argument, but the people who say that tend to be the people who actually never have a good steak. George RR Martin is NOT filet mignon, people. There’s a whole other Advocate to be written about the fact that the only legitimate modern lit author many of these folks read is Michael Chabon, and that seems to be because he once wrote a book about comics, but at least he gets people to leave Xanth once in a while.
I do wish I had more strength and could finish Sacred Games before assaulting my brain cells with this V garbage, but I don’t (this is also why I just ate like ten Fig Newtons. No will power). In the meantime, click here to order V: The Second Generation and join me in stupidity. And then click here to order Sacred Games and join me in modern lit heaven!